In the past few days, the Braves have made a couple roster moves that change the entire dynamic of the bullpen.
The first was the return of Daniel Winkler. A Rule 5 pick from the Rockies, Winkler was a former organization pitcher of the year but had been sidelined due to Tommy John Surgery. Winkler was one of the bright spots early in the 2016 season, as he looked absolutely lights out for the Atlanta bullpen in a couple outings. Unfortunately, his campaign would not last long. He fractured his elbow in his third outing. This was a serious injury, but luckily no ligament damage was done. Winkler was originally a starter in the Colorado farm system, but between injuries and his strikeout stuff, he will stick in the bullpen. Atlanta fans saw a small sample size, but it showed just how good Winkler could be.
AJ Minter is also a former Tommy John Surgery patient who could end up having elite late inning stuff. Though drafted just last season, Minter is the best bullpen prospect the Braves have. Though he hit a bit of a speed bump in AAA, he has seemingly turned the corner and still has just a 2.14 career minor league ERA. Minter could be the closer of the future for the Braves, but for now, the Braves should be happy that they have the best lefty reliever duo since the rebuild began between him and Sam Freeman. The days of Ian Krol and Eric O’Flaherty are (hopefully) over.
Both of these guys are untested in the big leagues, but the bullpen added a ton of talent in recent days. The only weak link remaining seems to be Jim Johnson, who has proven in the past he could easily turn things around. The rest of the season is basically tryouts for the Braves youngsters, and we should see Akeel Morris and Jason Hursh when rosters expand.
Basically, the Braves now have two guys with incredible strikeout stuff. It is now up to them to turn that into production at the big league level.
Do not overlook this Minter promotion. He really could be the Braves’ next Kimbrel. The Braves bullpen has been horrendous to watch all season long, but now is the time to pay attention to every pitch.